The junta has invited student organizations from leading universities nationwide to voice opinions in a national reform forum while ironically continuing to abuse its power under martial law to intimidate and monitor student activists.
According to the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, an anti-coup student group based at Thammasat University, the junta has sent invitations to the rectors of several leading universities to invite student councils to join a national reform forum.
The forum entitled ‘Uniting the Force of Students for National Reform’, held from 19-21 December, is meant to allow students to voice opinions on the direction of the national reform policies of the junta.
“The objective of the Uniting the Force of Students for National Reform Forum is to allow students from various institutions, who are the social force for the nation’s development, to exchange ideas and opinions on the desirable future of Thailand and the policies of national reform,” stated the invitation letter that was submitted to Thammasat University’s Rector.
Contradictory to this statement, however, the Dao Din student activist group from Khon Kaen University, five members of which were arrested for giving the junta leader the anti-coup three-fingered salute last month, report regular intimidation by the local security forces.
The group reported that two military officers from Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) on Tuesday visited the group’s facility in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen and warned the group not to risk breaking the law by organizing a public discussion.
Dao Din added that on Wednesday, a day before the junta’s student forum was planned, ISOC officers visited the group facility again and invited the group members to participate in the forum at only one day’s notice.
The “invitation,” Dao Din said, made them feel unsafe. Dao Din had earlier announced that it will not join the reform by junta.
Natchacha Kongudom, a student activist from the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD), told Prachatai that the junta is far from genuine in its gesture to welcome criticisms and ideas from students.
“The junta is only inviting those who are believed to be in line with their regime, me and other students who have voiced criticisms against the junta before were of course not invited to participate in the forum, so I think the forum is somewhat useless,” said Natchacha.
“Even if I was invited to join the forum, I wouldn’t participate because martial law is still in place. If the junta is really serious about listening to the voices of the students and the public then they should lift martial law first,” added the student activist.
Earlier on 12 December, Natchacha was threatened with rape by what are thought to be plainclothes military officers assigned to follow and watch her at an event organized by National Human Rights Commission.
In late November, she was arrested and briefly detained for flashing the anti-coup three-fingered salute at the Hunger Games 3 premiere.